When Mark Kelley ’80 was being recruited out of high school, Colby had an unfair advantage because then-head coach Jack Kelley also happened to be Mark’s father. So, it might be no surprise that after unlimited home visits, Mark was convinced to join the program his father was looking to rebuild.
Together, the father-son duo led the team to success on the ice with a season that included a notable win over Division I Northeastern for Jack’s 300th career coaching victory.
After that initial season, Jack Kelley decided to go back to professional hockey as the general manager of the National Hockey League’s New England Whalers. On his way out, he suggested his son Mark call the incoming class of Colby recruits to convince them to still enroll and join the program.
With the approval of the athletic director, Mark Kelley did just that—putting his own reputation on the line as he successfully convinced the entire incoming class of recruits to keep their commitments to Colby, rallied them as teammates, and ensured the strength of the program for years to come.
It may have been by necessity, but it was Kelley’s first experience recruiting talent.
After a few games of minor league hockey, Kelley accepted that his playing days had come to an end, took a job as a scout, and never looked back.
But it isn’t just his ability to recruit and spot talent that’s led to his success. It is Kelley’s abilities to communicate and build camaraderie with scouts he’s worked with and led through the years that have resulted in such a successful career. It’s the same skills he employed at Colby, building trust and getting recruits and teammates to work toward the same goal.
Today, as senior director of amateur scouting for the Chicago Blackhawks, Kelley’s team consists of 13 scouts. Managing and motivating that group to meet his own demanding attention to detail has led the Blackhawks to drafting multiple key players who have been part of the franchise’s Stanley Cup champion teams in recent years.
His own hockey scouting report may not have landed him on any NHL draftboards, but today Kelley defines his career making those important draft picks.
Kelley’s story is another example of how committing ourselves to competing—and winning—both as athletes and students offers many lessons carried beyond the field of play. Good things come to those equipped with a core set of values Colby instills in its athletes and graduates.